This is the first biography in English of Poland's paradoxical leader Wladyslaw Gomulka, who has endured many dramatic ups and downs in his lifelong struggle to be ""a Pole, a communist, and a patriot all at the same time."" Once acclaimed for the bold defiance of Stalin's absolutism that sent him to prison, the independent stance he adopted when back in power in 1956, and the moderate freedoms he permitted the country, Gomulka has gradually become a ""fallen angel,"" particularly since his 1968 support of the invasion of Czechoslovakia and his inability to control the anti-Zionist campaign in Poland. Bethell, a British newspaperman and writer-translator, does not class Gomulka as either a genuine hero or a genuine villain, but a ""victim of east European politics."" The emphasis of the book however is upon Gomulka's positive role in pioneering national independence and freedom of speech under communism and helping make viable a form of communist government generally tolerable to both his own people and the Soviet leaders. Gomulka's story is played out against the backdrop of the last forty years of Poland's history: the turbulent years of Polish independence, the Nazi invasion and occupation, and the postwar communist takeover. There are obvious difficulties in writing a biography of a man whose fear of the ""cult of personality"" makes him resist as un-Marxist being photographed, discussed, dissected, and reported on and whose government files are inaccessible to Westerners, and Bethell's account suffers both informationally and humanly. But it still has a lot to offer the student of the power struggle among Russia's satellites and the modern European Situation.